Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is one of the most enduring and endearing novels of all time. In this book, one of his satires about his society, Swift, as the eccentric Dr. Lemuel Gulliver, embarks on a voyage to several remote nations of the world from which he returns with, among others, two terms – Lilliputian and Yahoos – that have become a part of our lexicon. Yahoos, as used in Gulliver’s Travels, describes the depraved, bestial, loutish and repulsive humanoid creatures in the land of the Houyhnhnms, a race of more intelligent and rational horses to the humanoid creatures. Today, yahoo as a term is both a phenomenon and a name. It is an internet phenomenon as the name of one of the most visited home pages in cyberspace. In Nigeria, more than an internet domain name, Yahoo Yahoo (evidently coined from Yahoo, which is also presumably adapted from Gulliver’s Yahoos) describes the perpetrators as well as the act of internet fraud.
While the literary origin of yahoo may not mean much to Nigeria the damage the yahoo yahoo phenomenon has done to the country’s image obviously should. And with certain social trends in the country, you have to wonder how much of deterrence or solution the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC can provide against internet scam and other forms of advance fee fraud. I write as a Nigerian who has observed with dismay how we have inadvertently allowed music as a form of art to undermine the fight against advance fee fraud in general and the internet form of it, in particular. I have felt uneasy watching clips of the Green and White Party organised by Encomium Magazine and Kennis Music, in commemoration of Nigeria’s 48th independence anniversary. My source of unease stems from the appearance, at the occasion, of the singer, Kelly Hansome and his rendition of his hit song Maga Don Pay, to which the audience promptly gyrated and sang along. I do not have anything against Kelly Hansome as a person, but I have big issues with the song in question and what it can do to Nigeria’s image. How? The event was in celebration of Nigeria’s natal date, and one at which the national anthem was played and the country’s colours were proudly worn by all present. It was, therefore, an occasion in celebration of Nigeria, and Kelly Hansome’s Maga Don Pay definitely added an antithetic outlook to the picture. This is because, in contrast to the theme of the event and most other tunes, which were rendered at the event (TY Bello’s Green Land, Onyeka Onwenu’s One Love and Essence’s rendition of the national anthem, for instance), Maga Don Pay represents something Nigeria as an entity shouldn’t be and certainly doesn’t want to be associated with. The lyrics of the song glorify advance fee fraud, a phenomenon that has done a lot of damage to the country’s image over the years.
Of course, this is not the first time a situation of such nature would occur in this country. Sometime last year, after the triumphant return of the nation’s under-17 football team, Olu Maintain of the Yahooze fame, was on hand as the main attraction at the state-organised reception for the victorious team at the Eagle Square in Abuja. And dignitaries at the occasion, including ministers, state chief executives, and heads of other agencies and parastatals, all jigged to Maintain’s rendition of Yahooze, a song that brazenly glorifies internet scam. We may want to argue that these songs are just another set of songs and that their being performed at such events is just another item on the programme, but not when or where parts of Nigeria’s national monuments are involved or when you put all of that side by side the opinion other people have of us as a place where the trend of advance fee fraud is allowed to thrive. To them, such trends may well represent a more than tacit endorsement of 419 for such things to take place at social gatherings or events organised by some of the most reputable agencies or organizations in the country. Encomium magazine and Kennis music certainly fall into the category of what you can refer to as reputable media/entertainment organizations in Nigeria.
It is probably nobody else’s headache when a recording label and an artiste exploit their creativity to make a living and entertain others, but it is every well-meaning person’s business when such gifts or activities tend towards affecting the society negatively. Music is a social device, a medium not only for entertaining the society but also for educating, enlightening or orientating society. This form of art has perhaps, the most influence on pop culture. With hip hop especially, songs and their underlying meaning, whether accidental or intended, build young people and shape their character or value system against what they consider ‘chic’ or ‘in’ from listening to songs and watching music videos (sagging, bling bling dressing, men wearing ear rings and tattoos are just a few hip hop-induced fads today). Therefore, with songs like Yahooze and Maga Don Pay we run an all-too-clear risk of conditioning the young and impressionable amongst us to consider internet scam and advance fee fraud, in general as ‘chic’ or ‘in’ while at the same time, we tacitly tell the outside world that we have no problems with having everyone hold fast to their purse each time or anywhere one of us introduces themselves as a Nigerian. And when we gleefully play these songs at important occasions we only reinforce this view.
Take nothing away from Kennis Music or National Encomium. They have both done a lot to help launder Nigeria’s image over the years. Today, when we look at Tu Face Idibia as well as some of biggest music acts on the Nigerian scene, or some of the best musical programmes on TV in Nigeria we think of how much Kennis Music has done for us. This is the sort of precedence we want to keep. However, recording labels must be aware that their role in the society goes beyond entertaining the society. As makers of music potentially that shapes the mind of the audience, labels should learn to scrutinize the songs they release to the listening public side-by-side what the nobler role of songs and singers should be in the society. The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, the Nigerian Broadcast Commission as well as the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, must also realize and sincerely perform their role in all of this – for if Femi Kuti’s Bang Bang Bang, Nkem Owoh’s The Master, Zulezu’s Kerewa and Konga’s Konga were all banned from being played in public or aired on radio and TV some years back, then it is tantamount to saying that there is a difference between being a virgin and being a semi-virgin to have Yahooze and Maga Don Pay playing on radio and TV across the land let alone at fora of national importance.
Surely we cannot expect to have a Nigeria with singers and musicians in the mould of Lagbaja, Asa, TY Bello, Sound Sultan and others of the ilk only. But we cannot, in comparison, afford to continue encouraging a society, of musicians and singers that can only add the value of Gulliver’s Yahoos to society.